Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Somebody has to say it: When it comes to poweful pols exerting pressure, a mere phone call can convey all the intimidation of a mob contract


It was a grotesque charade back when Vice President Cheney got away with all those "visits" to the CIA to help the team there make the "right" calls on all that crappy "intelligence" he and his people wanted blessed as credible. Oh sure, the CIA issued some kind of declaration insisting that there had been no coercion, no attempt to influence its work product, which remained pure as a mountain stream.

Still, we knew even as we were hearing about those "visits" that the veep's CIA stakeout was totally without precedent, and was totally inappropriate if not actually illegal. And all it took was possession of a minimally functional brain to know that there was only one reason he was doing it. He wasn't bringing doughnuts to his poor overworked pals, the guys 'n' gals at Langley. It was muscle--pure muscle. Anyone who thinks there is the tiniest possibility that this is less than 100 percent absolutely certain is too stupid to live and should be institutionalized pronto.

Now, when a U.S. attorney gets a call from a powerful congressman of his/her own party and home state or worse still from a U.S. senator--a personal call, mind you, not a staff inquiry, which goodness knows can be intimidating enough--"asking" for information about the status of an investigation, a question that both the U.S. attorney and the powerful pol know is forbidden, the pol doesn't have to make open threats to deliver a message.

Let's say you're a U.S. attorney in Washington State, for example, and you get a call from someone who's not only a local U.S. representative but the Official Hand-Picked Stooge (having been personally chosen to jam up the House We Got No Ethics Committee) of probably the second most powerful man in the other Washington. He doesn't have to make specific reference to the continued structural integrity of your kneecaps to (as we said) deliver a message.

Ditto in New Mexico. Senator Pete can tell us that all he did was ask the merest wisp of a question. And Representative Heather . . . well, it's a little hard to put an innocent spin on it when she thinks it helps her case to claim that she was offering the guy a chance to exonerate himself of this tidal wave of accusations of disloyalty.

Now imagine that you're the guy, the U.S. attorney--the person on whose independence and professionalism rests the application of federal law in your district--sweating on the other end of these phone calls. The fact that you occupy a position like U.S. attorney means you're no political neophyte. You didn't just fall off the turnip truck; you understand that the "subtext" of this conversation is: "I have a pipeline to people who when they're finished with you you'll wish that ALL that happened to you was you got shitcanned."

I mean, we all know this, don't we? Isn't it about time that somebody said it?

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At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We all DO know it. And, I hope that Olbermann or some honest journalist will begin to lay it on the table for wide public conversation.

I watched Chris Matthews for a momentary comment on another news program, and I would say that he is enraged by the whole Libby/Cheney/Rove debacle involving Plame. His anger was palpable.


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